Great news! Sort of. I watched this trickle through the scientific press for a while and I guess I can no longer ignore it.
Researchers in the US are closing in on a therapy that could reverse harmful ageing processes in the brain, muscles, heart and other organs.[…]The infusions had a striking impact on the animals’ performance. Aged rodents … found their way around a water maze as well as six-month-old mice, and reacted like three-month-olds in an experiment that tested how well they remembered a threatening environment. […] Chemicals … encouraged the growth of blood vessels in the aged brain, which improved circulation in the organ. They also boosted the numbers of neural stem cells, which mature into brain cells. Older mice that received [it] had a sharpened sense of smell, able to distinguish odours as well as young animals could.
To reverse aging even a little bit sounds like a miracle. And not a congratulations-now-you-have-cancer miracle like telomerase but the sort of thing an actual person could use. You might ask why I feel a little trepidation about this news hitting it big.
Hopes have been raised by three separate reports released by major journals on Sunday that demonstrate in experiments on mice the dramatic rejuvenating effects of chemicals found naturally in young blood.
Infusions of young blood reversed age-related declines in memory and learning, brain function, muscle strength and stamina, researchers found. In two of the reports, scientists identified a single chemical in blood that appears to reverse some of the damage caused by ageing.
So we can (maybe, pending clinical trials) revitalize the elderly. It might even be easy. The caveat is pretty big though. We already know that young blood does the trick (in mice), so unless the purified protein (GDF11) works nearly as well and does not cost much you will soon see a demand for blood from lots and lots of children.
That may sound like a stretch. I hope so, but think about the potential market demand. It would make viagra look like a niche product. Literally every living person will want it. Can they make enough synthetic GDF11 to satisfy all that demand? Can they make it cheap enough for everyone to afford? Anyone with a pamphlet’s worth of medical knowledge and a centrifuge can make blood plasma. Much as we collectively do not want to see a black market show up, a lot of us individually will have a hard time not willing one into existence.